Lipopolysaccharide (LPS), or endotoxin, a structural component of gram-negative bacterial outer membranes, plays a key role in the pathogenesis of septic shock, a syndrome of severe systemic inflammation which leads to multiple-system organ failure. Despite advances in antimicrobial chemotherapy, sepsis continues to be the commonest cause of death in the critically ill patient. This is attributable to the lack of therapeutic options that aim at limiting the exposure to the toxin and the prevention of subsequent downstream inflammatory processes. Polymyxin B (PMB), a peptide antibiotic, is a prototype small molecule that binds and neutralizes LPS toxicity. However, the antibiotic is too toxic for systemic use as an LPS sequestrant. Based on a nuclear magnetic resonance-derived model of polymyxin B-LPS complex, we had earlier identified the pharmacophore necessary for optimal recognition and neutralization of the toxin. Iterative cycles of pharmacophore-based ligand design and evaluation have yielded a synthetically easily accessible N1,mono-alkyl-mono- homologated spermine derivative, DS-96. We have found that DS-96 binds LPS and neutralizes its toxicity with a potency indistinguishable from that of PMB in a wide range of in vitro assays, affords complete protection in a murine model of LPS-induced lethality, and is apparently nontoxic in vertebrate animal models.